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2018: Will Nigerian Workers Still Wait For Godot?

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The Nigerian workers are optimistic that 2018 will be better than the just ended 2017 which was tough for them. Many lost their jobs; some were not paid salaries. Also, the continuous fall of the naira, the rise in inflation, among others, made life difficult for them. However, labour is optimistic that 2018 will be better.

Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), President, Ayuba Wabba, who spoke with LEADERSHIP Weekend on behalf of Nigerian workers, listed workers’ expectations in 2018, to include government tackling unemployment, unpaid salaries and pension and introducing a new minimum wage.

The NLC chief pledged that the sector would witness robust labour activities aimed at improving workers’ welfare.

Wabba said the congress would recommit itself to leading the oppressed. In doing this, he said, the NLC leadership would conduct itself responsibly. The congress, he said, would liaise with her allies to engage the government and other critical stakeholders while asking for the support of workers and the masses for a better Nigeria.

He said the outgoing year was eventful and challenging for workers due to some developments in the polity, which tested their resilience. On job creation, Wabba said the workers expect the government to invest in job creation initiatives in the New Year. The NLC President stated that though the All Progressives Congress (APC) government at the centre made clear its promise in its manifesto of delivering three million jobs yearly, he expressed sadness that after two years in the saddle, it is, perhaps, time to ask the government to give a scorecard to the Nigerians that went through a lot of odds to elect the government.

He said: “How many jobs have the federal government and the 23 states controlled by the ruling party created in furtherance of its pledge to Nigerians during the electioneering campaign? We had stated in our past new year’s messages, as well as other policy pronouncements, that we have some ideas on how we can create new and sustainable jobs.

“Unfortunately, no one in the government has thought it necessary to give us a hearing on what these ideas are, and what they entail. At present, we are not even sure which ministry or agency of the government is the focal point on job creation. What we have said of the ruling APC, applies in large measures as well to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the states they control. We will in the new year continue to knock on the doors of all organs of government and put on the agenda the massive unemployment situation the country is facing.”

Trade Union Congress (TUC) President, Comrade Bobboi Kaigama, appealed to the federal government to remember its ‘Change Mantra’, adding that it makes no sense accusing and condemning the previous administrations for corruption only for the recovered money to be re-looted. “Mere leaving a political party for the ruling party must not make anybody a saint.

“Anti-graft agencies and the judiciary must prosecute those who were caught with our money. We know corruption is fighting back but we are confident that the war over evil will always emerge victorious. The world is watching and waiting for the pride of Africa and most populated black nation to blossom. The federal government’s economic recovery plan must not fail.  No more excuses,” he said.

Unpaid Salaries, Pensions/Retrenchments

The NLC president said in 2017, the union tackled some state governments over non-payment of outstanding wages and pension of workers and pensioners. He said one of the legacies of the misrule of the preceding years was the  irregular and non-payment of retired civil servants, which, he said amounted to 12 months arrears in many states.

Wabba said, “In fairness to the federal government, President Buhari had made consistent efforts to bail out state governments to pay workers’ wages in the states as 27 of the 36 states were in default at the inception of the administration in May 2015.

“In the New Year, the Congress would work with state councils of the NLC to engage state governments to pay up pension arrears of their retired employees, and to conclude arrangements to join the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) as provided for in the Pensions Reform Act of 2014. In the same vein, we shall mobilise for all employers to pay the new pensions contribution of 18 per cent of total pay which came into effect with the signing of the new Pension Act into law in July 2014” he said.

Wabba also said the congress anti-casualisation campaigns would be intensified in the New Year, adding that the NLC would continue its campaign against the incidence of non-payment of salaries.

Struggle Against Increase in Price of Petrol

Wabba lamented that petroleum products price increase has been a recurring decimal in the past two decades and the argument has been the same.

He said, “We continue to wonder why we cannot refine our products locally for domestic use and even for export, which in the long-run would create a chain of benefits.

“The full implementation of all the palliative measures to cushion the effect of the increase in fuel price as recommended by the Technical Committee is still being waited. We call on the government to expedite action on the implementation of the recommendations.”

Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) in a statement signed by its President, Comrade Igwe Achese, frowned at the incessant fuel scarcity, which has resulted to long queues, loss of man-hours and endless search for products. NUPENG said the scarcity has further worsened the citizens’ standard of living through increased fares and goods and services’ prices.

The Union called on the government to address the situation instead of trading blames when the depots are dry. It, therefore, called on the Federal Government to urge the appropriate bodies to flood the market with petroleum products in 2018 as a stopgap. In the long run, it stressed that the nation’s four refineries should be revamped to reduce the pressure on foreign exchange for petroleum products import.

Minimum Wage Increment

Labour expressed optimism that the federal government would give workers a good living wage. President Buhari last month okayed the appointment of a 30-member tripartite National Minimum Wage Committee for the negotiation of a new National Minimum Wage.

Wabba said: “Our expectation is that the demand of labour will be met. We will discuss with an open mind to ensure that we achieve our aims and objectives.” He said the meeting with the tripartite committee would be a social dialogue and that of collective bargaining.

According to him, the inauguration is long overdue and that efforts would be made to fast-track negotiations to ensure that workers and pensioners get their accrued benefits. He said labour would discuss issues relating to rate of naira because the exchange rate had increased from when N56, 000 was being proposed by labour.

NLC General Secretary, Mr. Peter Ozo-Eson, also said the committee would discuss many issues affecting the minimum wage. According to him, it is over two years since labour proposed N56, 000 as minimum wage to the government, so they would consider some socio-economic indices to take its action. “We look forward to the inauguration, which I believe will discuss the facts and realities when it starts the negotiation,” he said.

Optimism, Youth Inclusion

Also speaking, Tunde Ajibulu, a chieftain of the APC who expressed optimism that the economy would improve this year urged Nigerians to be patient with President Buhari. He also canvassed unity among the three arms of government saying this is the only way the country can witness significant improvement.

“Nigerians should continue to be patient with President Buhari. I believe the economy will get better this year and insurgency will be crushed. I am happy that the executive and legislative arms of government are now on the same page. The judiciary should also join them so that together, we can achieve maximum results,” he said.

To the Nigerian youths, he said, “The youths should realise that the time to understand and utilise their power to effect change for a better Nigeria and youth inclusion in governance is at hand.  The world over, youths brimming with ideas are taking over governance.  We saw what happened in France with Macron and now Austria just elected a 31 year old as president.”



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